Cheers — to Stephanie Johnson, named to be principal of the proposed VIBES public charter school at Kids Unlimited. Johnson is an inspired choice. In her 34 years with the Medford School District, she amassed a well-deserved reputation as an innovative educator, especially during her years as principal at Washington Elementary School, where she raised student performance and encouraged parent involvement in a school with many low-income students. She is a founding board member of Kids Unlimited, which hopes to open the new school in September.
Jeers — to the failure of lawmakers in Salem to reach an agreement on further Public Employees Retirement System savings and tax increases to boost funding for public schools and colleges. The Senate passed a $6.75 billion K-12 budget on Wednesday as the prospects for a "grand bargain" appeared to dwindle. House Speaker Tina Kotek and other Democratic leaders paid lip service to wanting a deal to better fund education, but no agreement was forthcoming. It may well be that PERS savings beyond those passed earlier in the session would be struck down by the courts, and no one, this editorial board included, wants to take a secure retirement away from public sector retirees. But the leadership appears more devoted to protecting its union support than taking a stab at freeing up more dollars for schools.
Cheers — to former Medford mayor Lou Hannum, who has created a fund in memory of his late wife to support the Jackson County Library Services' outreach programs. Dorothy Hannum was a librarian in Michigan and in Ohio and a longtime volunteer for the Friends of the Medford Library. The fund, started just last month with seed money from Hannum and his daughters, has already amassed $13,000, with contributions coming from more than 60 donors. Hannum, 98, said he wanted to honor the love of books he and his wife shared.
Cheers — to the Heeling for Heroes program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics. The program, founded by Dahna Dow Osmus, a lead case manager and psychiatric nurse, with funding from her brother, trains service dogs to assist veterans suffering the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. Resident veterans at SORCC train the dogs, which helps them in their rehabilitation as they prepare the dogs to help other vets. The dogs are trained to perform psychiatric service tasks, such as entering a room first, something can cause anxiety in PTSD sufferers.
Cheers — to retired forester Tom Landis, who has started a project to restore milkweed habitat that is critical for the survival of migratory monarch butterflies. Milkweed, once common along roadsides and elsewhere throughout the Rogue Valley, is less prevalent now. It is the only plant the monarch caterpillar will eat. The insects migrate from Canada down to the Santa Cruz and Monterey, Calif., area, where they spend the winter.